Perspective shifting can be hard work. Too often we fight to uphold our position for fear our worldview could be flawed. It is not so simple as being right or being wrong. We are complex individuals in a complex world. The more we welcome people into our lives and the more diverse we become as a population, we must understand the ways in which we view ourselves and the world will be challenged. We all have different ways in which we see ourselves and the world through lenses of our own experiences and limited understanding. It can be beautiful and it can also be messy. If we want to somehow find peace within ourselves and others, it will take some work in shifting our perception on things and be willing to be wrong. it is nearly impossible for anyone to be entirely right or entirely wrong. When we get the need for power out of our conversation, we creat space for greater understanding.
This morning my friend called me out about a situation where I tried to use a bunch of words to somehow change the narrative of a situation so I didn’t look bad. This is my defense mechanism and my flaw. Nobody really wants to be wrong or misunderstood, and I am no exception. We all seem to squirm when something or someone challenges the story we tell ourselves. Perhaps we find ourselves working harder to not be perceived as being wrong than the work it would take to listen to differing viewpoints. Part of this work is acknowledging that we have a story we are telling ourselves about ourselves, relationships, and every given situation and it is not possible for this narrative to be flawless. You and I are not flawless, and we need to remind ourselves it is okay not to be flawless. In some ways, it could seem as if our narrative is merely black and white and we become disregulated when someone comes along with color to add to our story.
Friends, we are in a time when being human, navigating relationships, communication, and the world at large can seem overwhelmingly chaotic. The rise in mental illness should not be a surprise to anyone. No matter how we work to improve our communication skills, the broader conversations will always be complicated because we are complex people with differing realities. We should not be afraid of this, but rather be more gracious with ourselves and one another in the process. We should work hard to listen to each other to understand and not only to respond. We are only hurting ourselves and denying our own opportunity for personal growth when we insist on holding tightly to our own narratives and strike down anyone else who sees things from a different perspective. It is easy to sit back and say “some people just want to watch the world burn”, but it takes deeper work to trust the best of intentions and gain the understanding that some may have the sincerest of motives, yet continue throwing gas on the fire out of fear of being wrong. I may be a bit too much of an optimist, but I really don’t believe people actually want to watch the world burn. I remember a phrase we would use from my days working in the evangelical field: “Good Intention Dragons”. I’m not certain of the origin of this phrase, but it helps me to understand how, even with the best of intentions, we are capable of setting things ablaze with a simple word.
Several months ago, an acquaintance once told me in reference to a mutual friend, “he doesn’t intend to hurt.” For the longest time I thought she only meant he didn’t mean to hurt others, when I recently realized this statement had a double meaning. People in general have no real intentions of hurting and the hurt which lashes out onto others is only coming from a place of hurt. Whether the hurt is self-inflicted or from an outside source, nobody wants it. Even with the best of intentions, hurting is inevitable because our world is broken. Some hurt more than others, but our intentions are rarely to cause harm.
So if you have read this far, may I encourage you with this: make room for others to bring more color to your narrative, be willing to do the work to shift your perspective, and be gracious with yourself and others through the process. Because life is beautiful, and messy, and most certainly worth it.